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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nobody gets a free ride on this train!
It's the great depression and the US is now home to many homeless hobos. Shack is a particularly nasty piece of work, devoid of any compassion for the homeless, he prides himself on not letting any one ride free aboard the train he conducts upon. But in the midst is hobo supreme, A No. 1, a man who is never afraid to take up a challenge, so along with Cigaret, a young...
Published 9 months ago by Spike Owen

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Delivered on time and in good condition.
Disappointed with a rather trite story which I expected to be better. Not one of Lee Marvin's best films as far as I'm concerned.
Published 12 months ago by Derek Oliver Sibthorpe


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nobody gets a free ride on this train!, 4 July 2013
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
It's the great depression and the US is now home to many homeless hobos. Shack is a particularly nasty piece of work, devoid of any compassion for the homeless, he prides himself on not letting any one ride free aboard the train he conducts upon. But in the midst is hobo supreme, A No. 1, a man who is never afraid to take up a challenge, so along with Cigaret, a young wannabe legend, he sets about destroying Shack's reputation whilst furthering his own.

Make no bones about it, Emperor Of The North Pole is unashamedly macho, director Robert Aldrich filling his picture with machismo beefcakes and molding a story of brawn versus brawn aboard the unlikely setting of a steam train journey. Boasting Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine {both excellent} as the twin main leads signals the films intent, yet the picture offers more than just egotistical bluster. We get a very engrossing feel of a most depressing time in history, a time when men wanted to be men but were struck down by misfortune. Some of the dialogue is very sharp, listen to Marvin's A No. 1 wry observations on the world and you know that this film has quite a bit to say.

The other major thing to note is that some of the technical work is brilliant, the photography from Joseph F. Biroc is priceless, some of the train sequences are feasts for the eyes. Aldrich's undervalued flair for action also comes to the fore here, from a near miss train crash to the defining confrontation between our two pit bull protagonists, it really is a most accomplished piece across the board. Even young Keith Carradine as Cigaret comes out with much credit, it would have been easy for him to have been lost under the sheer weight of the beef talent around him, but he holds his own and is integral to the films ultimate success.

It's a difficult one to recommend with any great confidence because it has kind of got an acquired taste to it, but to me it remains one of the 70s hidden treasures, a film that I'm always going to have the utmost regard for. 9/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fight for dignity in times of great misery - a film with many hidden levels..., 17 Jun 2013
By 
Maciej "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
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I liked this very famous film, but it took me two viewings to really appreciate its great quality. Below, more of my impressions with limited SPOILERS.

In time of Great Depression in USA tens of thousands of homeless and jobless people wandered around the country. If most were simply looking for a job and a new life, with time some abandoned all idea of return to the society and became "professional" vagrants. The merchandise trains were one of the main ways to travel through the immensity of United States - but the "hobos" breaking and hiding in the wagons were considered a nuisance by rail companies. Therefore the railroad employees and especially the conductors were asked to prevent the homeless from acceding the trains and disembark them as soon as they were found, if necessary by force. This unavoidably created a state of permanent hostility and conflict between the "hobos" and the railways men, with fistfights and brawls being frequent - and from time to time things would go much further and lives were lost on both sides...

This film tells the story of two men who, placed on opposite sides of this conflict, will mercilessly fight one another. Shack (Ernest Borgnine) is a particularly brutal, even sadistic and vicious conductor, who is literally consumed by the hatred of vagrants who try to ride his train - and he doesn't hesitate to throw out the stowaways without bothering to stop the train, actually killing some of them... A-No.1 (Lee Marvin) is a kind of legend amongst hobos - a grizzled old timer who went everywhere, saw everything and knows all the tricks of their "trade" better than anybody else. After Shack kills another hobo, A-No.1 challenges him by claiming that he will ride his train, all the way to the final station in Portland, Oregon.

At two hours this is a long film and action scenes are finally rather few, but it is definitely not boring. Robert Aldrich recreated the general atmosphere of the Great Depression very, very well indeed. All the trains showed in the film were real survivors from the 30s and film was shot indeed in Oregon, on the same locations by the way where the legendary "The General" by Buster Keaton was turned. Both main actors gave a great performance.

The scenario is very strong, which is not surprising as it was at least partially inspired by Jack London book "The road". Another source of inspiration were the memories of a real famous tramp, Leon Ray Livingston (1872-1944), who actually was really nick-named A-No.1 (and sometimes also "The King of Tramps").

The one thing which I liked a little bit less is the character of Cigarette (Keith Carradine) a young, obnoxious, loud-mouthed and not very bright vagabond who obstinately follows A-No.1. This film would have benefitted if Cigarette had less screen time or if he had at least some redeeming traits... I think that Cigarette's character was supposed to deliver some humor and counter-balance the grim and serious A-No.1 - but instead of being funny, Cigarette is just annoying.

I must admit, that after seeing this movie the first time I was slightly disappointed. But "Emperor of the North" is a kind of film which grows on you - after thinking about it a little and seeing it a second time, I finally realized how good this film really is. As far as my perception of this movie is concerned, this is mostly a story of a fight for dignity in a time of great human suffering. But this fight is not only waged by A-No.1, but also by Shack.

It is easy to see that A-No.1 challenged Shack not only to make his reputation (he is ALREADY a legend) but especially to confront and if possible humiliate a deadly bully, who caused so much suffering to his fellow tramps. But as cruel and sadistic as Shack is, he actually also fights for his dignity. He lives in times when everything seems to degrade and fall apart - therefore, he tries obsessively to cling to something, to preserve the purity and security of what is both his own personal territory and a happy place - HIS train, the Number 19 (he doesn't agress people out of the train).

And he has some reasons to consider tramps as agressors, who degrade and desecrate the one place of safety he knows - the vagrants sometimes cause fires when cooking food, they break parts of wagons, steal merchandises, leave excrements, cause delays by slowing trains to board them (by spreading oil on tracks), etc. For somebody insecure enough all this trouble in his personal space of security can cause a real, almost physical suffering. So as far as my personal understanding of this film is concerned, Shack is not simply a murderer and a bully - he is a murderer and a bully with a cause to defend. And that makes him even scarier...

The brutal confrontation between those two men who both are powerfully motivated and refuse to concede defeat is shown in this film with a great talent. But it is not only an action/adventure film - it is also a road movie and a great picture of times of Great Depression. And even if this film is rather brutal with all characters being tough and rough men (we see very few women in this film), it has also some precious humorous moments.

So bottom line, this is an important, precious and very interesting film, which is worth to be watched and re-watched - even if it is not exactly an easy action/adventure movie. I recommend it warmly. Enjoy!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A - Number 1, 12 Feb 2009
By 
Peter Taylor (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
Lee Marvin's best performance I know of. This is a story of conflict between two tough characters during tough times on the railroad in the depression in America. Marvin plays the bad guy with a heart, Ernest Bergoine the good guy without one. The sets, storyline and action sequences are brilliant. The outcome uplifting.
The performance by Keith Carradine as Marvin's slippery sidekick also demonstrates the depth of acting skill in this film. If you've watched 'The Duelists' you'll see why.
The only thing I found disappointing is the music. This has a sort of jazzy country-singalong style which doesn't sit at all happily with the confrontational mood of the film.

There are lots of parallels with ' Runaway Train' with John Voight which I have also reviewed(exept for the music which in that case is brilliant). This film however, is the more convincing story.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, tough if flawed Aldrich character study,, 13 Jun 2010
By 
K. Gordon - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
Interesting, quasi-political film of depression era hobo (Lee Marvin) -
famous within hobo circles for being able to ride any train - trying to
ride one guarded by meanest guy in the world (Ernest Borgnine). He
picks up a young protégé (a very young Keith Carradine) along the
way who -- after much resistance - he accepts as the start of the
next generation of men who live by their wits and go their own way.

The acting is solid throughout. The score is a bit much at times, and
some of the writing is variable, but there are good scenes and
thoughtful ideas about the battle between 'freedom' and playing by the
rules along the way.

Aka 'The Emperor of the North Pole'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Emperor of the North DVD, 13 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
Great film with great cast. I watched this movie years ago and when
I saw it on Amazon recently I just had to get it. Excellent value and entertainment. Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lee, 28 Jun 2013
By 
Mr. M. Stagg "MikeHydro" (Somerset England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
Again Lee Marvin at his best, nice rendering of film, Ernest at worst as he did so well, scenery is fabulous, an education as well as entertaining, violence has to be tolerated as to reality of the times, but a good presentation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ------------The force is strong with this one--------- !!!!!, 6 May 2012
This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
Emperor of The North.AND NOT THE NORTH POLE ..Storyline It is during the great depression in the US, and the land is full of people who are now homeless. Those people, commonly called "hobos", are truly hated by Shack (Borgnine), a railway conductor who swore that no hobo will ride his train for free.it has become an obsession with "Shack" a sadistical railway conductor of the Oregon, Pacific & Eastern Rail-road, who makes it his obsession to prevent any such free riders to ride his number 19 train. Even to the point of beating them to death with a baseball bat or a heavy chain. Well, no-one but "A" Number One (Lee Marvin), who is ready to put his life at stake to become a local legend, thus as the first person who survived the trip on Shack's notorious 19 train.
.WHAT CAN I SAY?
.Hard Times Breeds Hard Men.This is a man's movie: ugly, violent, and pessimistic.This film is one of the unsung gems of the seventies, part adventure film, part social drama, part road movie.Ernest Borgnine was superb as the murderous railroad agent intent on keeping a legendary hobo off his train. Lee Marvin gave one of his best performances as TOP hobo,. This film really gets the feel of a depression-era.The action in this movie is very real. violent and memorable movie from two of the screens best actors.
There is definately nothing else quite like it. Basicaly the main action revolves around tramps riding trains across depression hit America There are some good stunts and action scenes involving daring-do on moving trains you cant predict the outcome they also did not need any gimmicks or "special effects".
Of course having Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine
as the 2 main stars helps.
What actors alive today could match those two legends?
They didn't need stunt doubles and stand ins!
These were "real men".
This is a man's movie:
its ugly,
its violent,
its pessimistic
its Action-packed greatness
its thoroughly captivating story
its also one of the finest photographed movies ever made. When you view this movie, you feel as though you are right there taking part in it..
You've never seen anything like it for sheer breathtaking excitement.
one thing left to say ?
it is the best railroad movie of all time
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5.0 out of 5 stars I'm gonna say this just once, so listen tight kid., 4 Jan 2012
This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
Do not let the opening song/music and hammy acting by supporting cast distract you from the really great performances by Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine - they are excellent. The plot is simple, nobody rides on Ernest Borgnine's train - unless you're Lee Marvin that is... Stunts (performed by the actors) are great, the violence is hardcore but its the spirit of the two main characters that engage you the most. Lee Marvin is rock solid and in my opinion, this is Ernest Borgnine's finest performance - believe me, you would not want to meet this character ! Tickets please...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lee Marvin Vs Ernest Borgnine, 7 Nov 2011
By 
Mrs. Marilyn A. Rice "RR" (sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine go head to head in this great first class action adventure, which Ernest Borgnine stars as a tough nasty railway official who lets no tramp have a free ride in his train. But hobo Lee Marvin makes a bet that he will be able to survive in Ernest Borgnine's train, which their is a thrilling and violent fight between the two stars. The film is directed by Robert Aldrich, who directed the two stars in "The dirty dozen" and he also directed other great films such as "Flight of the phoenik" and "Twillights last gleaming". Even though this movie has more talking than action, the acting performances are superb, especially Ernest Borgnine who is actually quite scary in the film and also their are many thrilling sequences, which Aldrich makes you feel like you are in an express train. The only disadvantages I thought was that the music was quite corny and also I found Keith Carradine annoying at times, which he sure does get what he deserves towards the end. This is one of those great films which deserves to be better known and if you like action movies, this movie is well worth buying and I would give it 8/10.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Service was excellent, 17 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Emperor of the North [DVD] (DVD)
After I ordered the film it was forecast to arrive between the 3rd and the 15th. It arrived on the 2nd in perfect condition and it is a very good film. Thankyou BarryH.
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Emperor of the North [DVD]
Emperor of the North [DVD] by Robert Aldrich (DVD - 2007)
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